French military planners believed that German pilots could be fooled into destroying a life-size duplicate of Paris rather than the actual one, so they set out to make one.
This artificial city was built on the outskirts of Paris, far enough away from inhabitants and the city’s infrastructure to keep the threat at bay.
The designers were determined to make the mock city appear as realistic as possible, even from above, so they hired Fernand Jacopozzi, an electrical expert, to illuminate each street with electric lights. The plan was to mislead the Germans into believing that these electric lights signified people and that they should bomb them.
A replica of the Gare du Nord train station, the Arc de Triomphe, and the Paris Opera were among the replica buildings, as were industrial neighbourhoods like Saint-Denis and Aubervilliers, which would have been bomber targets.
The crowning pearl of this scheme was the minute artistic detail — the designers went to great pains to deceive the public, even applying translucent paint on the false structures to give the impression of “dirty factory glass roofs.”
Flashing white, yellow, and red lamps were also added to indicate that machines were in use at night. The show included fake trains and railway tracks as well.
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According to The Telegraph:
Professor Jean-Claude Delarue, a famous historian based in Paris, stated, “It’s an astonishing narrative and one that even Parisians understood very little about.”
‘For obvious reasons, the plan was kept secret, but it demonstrates how seriously military strategists were already taking the new threat of aerial bombardment.’
The DCA Air Defense Group (Défense Contre Avions) came up with the proposal in 1918, and while it may be one of the best military designs ever developed, it never got a chance to be put to the test — the duplicate wasn’t constructed before the last German air raid in September 1918.
Despite the fact that the fake Paris was destroyed very immediately after the war and quickly rebuilt over, the reappearance of these maps provides a look into its forgotten past, according to Professor Delarue.
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